Have you just been asked to be a bridesmaid? Congratulations, it’s an honor to stand by your friend’s side on her wedding day. But now you’re probably wondering, who’s paying for this shindig? Traditionally speaking, the bride covers the costs of the bridesmaid dresses. 

As the bridesmaid, your role is to support the bride during the planning process and on the wedding day. The bride selects the bridesmaid dresses to match her wedding style and vision, so she also pays for them. However, some brides may ask you to pay for your shoes, hair, and makeup. 

Don’t panic. A bride will typically keep costs reasonable and understand if you have a budget. If money is tight, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask if she can cover more of the fees or look for more affordable options together. 

Who Traditionally Pays for The Dress

In the U.S. and many Western cultures, bridesmaids are typically expected to cover the cost of their dresses and accessories. This long-held tradition puts the responsibility on members of the bridal party, even though the bride usually chooses the specific dress or provides guidelines for what she envisions.

If you’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid, plan on budgeting for the full expense of your outfit. Dresses can range anywhere from $50 to $500 or more per dress, depending on the formality of the wedding and the bride’s tastes. 

You’ll also need to buy shoes, likely in a specific color or style to match the dress, and any jewelry or other accessories the bride requests. All told, you could spend $100-$800 or more, so start saving as soon as possible!

When The Bride Pays 

If the bride offers to pay for the bridesmaid dresses, consider yourself lucky! This takes a huge burden off your shoulders and allows you to focus on other wedding expenses.

The Bride Typically Pays If:

  • She has her heart set on expensive dresses that would be a financial strain for the bridesmaids. As a kind gesture, she opts to cover the costs. This is usually kept private to avoid awkwardness.
  • She has a small bridal party. Paying for 3-4 dresses is more doable than paying for 10-12, no matter the budget.
  • Budget allows. If the bride and groom have allocated funds for the bridal party attire, it makes sense for the bride to pick up the tab.
  • A bridesmaid truly can’t afford the dress. As a thank you for being part of the special day, the bride will cover the dress cost for that person.

When the bride pays for the dresses, it’s best to keep communication open about budgets and expectations upfront. The bride should make it clear if you’re expected to pay for alterations or accessories. 

Other Options Aside from The Traditional Route

There are a few alternatives to having your bridesmaids pay for their dresses.

  • Offer to pay for the dresses yourself. As the bride, you’re not obligated to cover this cost, but paying for the bridesmaid dresses is a generous gesture that your girls will surely appreciate. If it’s not in your budget to pay for everything, consider covering at least a portion of the costs.
  • Ask family members to help pitch in. Parents, grandparents, and siblings often want to support the wedding in some way. Contributing to the bridesmaid dresses is a meaningful way for them to help out.
  • Set a maximum budget for each dress and have your bridesmaids pay any overage. For example, you could state that you’ll cover up to $200 per dress, and if a bridesmaid selects a dress that costs $225, she would pay the extra $25. 
  • Provide a swatch of the wedding colors and allow the bridesmaids to select their dresses. Ask them to purchase floor-length gowns in a complementary color and fabric. The freedom to choose an affordable and re-wearable option they love can make the expense easier to swallow.

Typical Cost of a Bridesmaid Dress 

According to wedding etiquette experts, the bride traditionally pays for the bridesmaid dresses. Given the various expenses your bridesmaids will be taking on in the lead-up to your wedding, it’s essential that brides carefully consider the cost of the bridesmaids’ dresses as well as everyone’s height and body types when choosing wedding-day ensembles.

Bridesmaids’ dresses can range anywhere from $100 to upwards of $800, depending on the lavishness of the wedding and the stores you shop at. As you browse gowns, choose styles that are flattering, comfortable, and within an agreed-upon budget. 

The cost of being a bridesmaid is often at the heart of any conflicts that may arise between brides and their attendants, and the last thing you want is for your bridesmaids to be upset or frustrated about having to shell out a ton of cash on a dress they will never wear again.


What Do a Bridesmaid Cannot Afford a Bridesmaid Dress?

If the dress the bride has selected is not in your budget, don’t panic. Approaching the bride openly and honestly about your financial situation is the best first step. Explain that you’re honored to be a part of her special day. 

Some possible solutions could be:

  • Ask if the bride is open to a different yet coordinating style at a lower price point. Sites like New York Dress offer many affordable bridesmaid dress options to choose from.
  • See if the bride will consider paying for part of the cost, such as the deposit or alterations. Offer to pay her back over time if needed.
  • Look into more budget-friendly versions of the same or similar dresses from other retailers. Many designers also offer more affordable collections.
  • Consider renting a pre-owned version of the dress. Some bridal shops and websites now offer dress rental options for bridesmaids at up to 70% off retail prices.


So, there you have it. According to tradition and etiquette, the bride typically pays for the bridesmaid dresses. Of course, some brides may ask their bridesmaids to pay for part or all of their dresses if they want something super pricey or custom. 

As a bridesmaid, the most important thing is supporting your friend on her big day, not how much the dress costs. Focus on enjoying this special time together and making memories. 

The wedding photos will capture the beautiful moments, not how much was spent on dresses. The bride will surely appreciate your love and support standing by her side, and that’s what really matters.

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